Real Madrid suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday, turning in a very concerning performance as they went down 1-0 to Cádiz. There are so many questions and we get into them here, looking at three that were answered and then three that this defeat threw up.
1. Would Real Madrid be hit by the FIFA Virus?
The FIFA Virus is one of the Spanish media’s favourite terms in the week following an international break. It refers to the way in which so many players suffer injuries or fatigue while taking part in matches for their national teams and Real Madrid have shown the FIFA Virus’ symptoms in the past. This time last year they lost away at newly promoted Real Mallorca following the 2019 October international break. So, would they feel any effects this year? Well, yes. 100 percent. It’s not just that Real Madrid lost, but they looked so lethargic in the first half of this one. Everything was slow. Everything was imprecise. There was one example in the first half when Luka Modrić got caught on his own byline and a terrible attempt at control saw him stamp the ball out for a Cádiz corner kick. That wouldn’t happen in a normal week, but it’s what happens after a week of globetrotting international football. The Real Madrid players looked jetlagged, even the European ones. It was a mess.
2. How would the Fernández duel go?
It was Nacho vs Álex Fernández in this match, with the two brothers finding themselves on opposite sides. With Nacho at right-back and with Álex on Cádiz’s left flank, the siblings weren’t just on the same pitch but they were directly challenging each other for most of this game. It proved to be one of the most interesting individual matchups since Álex is a star man for Cádiz and since Nacho can be viewed as a weak point in Real Madrid’s back line. There was no clear victor in their individual battles, but Álex won the day as his side collected the three points.
3. Why were Real Madrid wearing pink at home?
Real Madrid weren’t playing at the Bernabéu, but they were playing at the Di Stéfano and were the home team for this match. So, why were they wearing pink while Cádiz turned up in their usual yellow? Well, officially it was because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and because Monday is Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Spain, a great cause that Real Madrid have traditionally backed in other ways. Unofficially, it was for marketing. Just as when Real Madrid wore green at home against Espanyol last season to “support the fight against climate change”, even as the Bernabéu heaters burned above fans’ heads, one of the key underlying reasons was marketing. This was the fifth time that Real Madrid have played at home not in white, with these five occasions coming in 1951, 1961, 1967, 2019 and 2020. Personally, I hope this isn’t a pattern and I hope it doesn’t happen again in 2021. Real Madrid aren’t supposed to wear colours other than white at home, especially not for an unsubtle attempt to sell shirts.
1. Did Zidane rotate too much?
Every team has to rotate over the course of the season and elite clubs have to do so at least a little bit following an international break. But, did Zidane rotate too much in this match? He made five changes compared to the starting XI from the Levante win before the international break, giving the likes of Marcelo, Isco and Lucas Vázquez opportunities. Then, at half time, Zidane made four substitutions during the interval, seemingly admitting that his starting line-up wasn’t up to scratch.
2. How serious is Ramos’ injury?
One of the half time changes made by Zidane was Éder Militão coming on for Sergio Ramos. In this one case, it wasn’t tactical tinkering, as Ramos had to come off with an injury after suffering a tough knock to his left knee. Zidane was typically vague when asked about this in his post-match press conference and we’ll have to wait for the centre-back to go for tests to find out the extent of the injury. Considering Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona are coming up over the next seven days and considering how much worse Real Madrid always look when their leader is missing, this is a big question mark and a big concern.
3. What will the response be to Casemiro’s comments?
Casemiro had some interesting comments after this game. The first half was bad and everyone who watched the game knows it, including Casemiro. And, after the game, the Brazilian criticised the first half attitude. The only issue is that he didn’t play the first half, as he came on at half time. As he explained: “It’s difficult for me to speak about the first half because I wasn’t there, but the attitude in the first half cannot be what it was.” Casemiro was speaking truth. The first half was particularly terrible. But, there’s always something a little problematic with a teammate criticising a performance that he wasn’t part of. The good things is that it’s Casemiro and he boasts so much respect from his colleagues in the dressing room. Hopefully, they listen to him and take his analysis on board because it’s an accurate one.